Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Homemade Chocolates

Rich, shiny and customizable DIY Chocolates. These chocolates are super delicious and better than the store bought ones! Edible gifts for the Hostess or for Valentine's Day! 


Valentine's Day is almost here! I cannot believe we are the end of January already and thinking of Valentines Day treats. Last year I posted a yummy Pink Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Dipped Madeleines. I started preparing for this year a week ago. I wanted to make something super easy yet delicious! 

A few years ago I learnt how to make chocolates. I was on a roll making chocolates for friends, family and of course myself. Starting off with the simplest plain chocolates to ones filled with nuts, coconuts, caramel and jams. At that time I made truckloads of chocolates and then suddenly I stopped making them as I got bored of making the same things over and over and I had gifted some chocolates to EVERYONE around me.


A couple of weeks back I was arranging all my cooking equipments and saw a pile of my chocolate molds! I pulled them out and decided to make some. I made them for Valentine's Day and for gifting it to my friends and nephew. It was so much fun making them after YEARS and it was awesome to see my hubby enjoy them just like he did years ago! 

I made an assortment of chocolates this time. I had a Love inspired mold set and used that to make plain bittersweet chocolates. I made others with Roasted Almonds, Crunch bites, Strawberry Jam and Roasted Cashews. 

To make it easy to identify after making, I try and make the same kind of chocolates in one kind of mold. Plus, if you intend to wrap the chocolates, make sure you wrap each kind of chocolate in the same color. It helps identify which wrapper has which chocolate and makes a colorful combination in the box. 


Important points in making Chocolates

When I made this in India, I used to use Morde Compounds. They made the shiniest and smoothest chocolates. In the US I like to use Plymouth Make your own Almond Bark to make the chocolates. They make really yummy chocolates. 

I used roasted nuts to make the chocolates, as they make amazing fillings. Just make sure the nuts are completely cool before using them in chocolates. If the nuts are warm, they will release water into the chocolates making them soggy. 

The MOST important part of making chocolates is keeping it AWAY from WATER. Water and chocolate are enemies. Any contact with water in the process will seize the chocolate and will result in clumped chocolate that cannot be used to continue the process. 


use the molds as you like. There are plastic molds and there are silicone molds. Pick the size of the cavities such that it makes bite sized chocolates. There are plenty of molds available in the market, choose one as per your preference. 

The chocolate can be made by two methods; stovetop in a water bath or microwave. I like to make it by the microwave method, as it ensures no water gets in the way. 

Choose the chocolates as you like; dark, milk or semi-sweet. I like to make a them either as a combination of semi-sweet and dark or only milk. I am a great fan of white chocolates filled with nuts but I did not make them this time. 


Ingredients

Chocolate blocks (Milk, Dark or somewhere in between) 2 cups
Fillings 1 cup (I used Almonds, Crunch bits, Coconut flakes and Cashews)

Method

Chop the chocolate block into pieces. I used a mix of 1 cup of dark chocolate and 1 cup of milk chocolate. Ensure the knife and the chopping board is completely dry. Transfer to a glass bowl that is fairly big.

Keep the molds ready on the counter. If you like the nuts roasted, dry roast them for 4-5 minutes on a pan. Allow them to cool completely.


To melt on the Stove

Heat a large pot of water on the stove till it boils. Turn down the heat and place the bowl filled with chocolate in the water. Ensure that the water does not enter the bowl or splash into it. Let the chocolate sit till it is about 2/3rd molten. Remove from heat and place on a kitchen towel so that the water below the bowl is absorbed.

To melt using Microwave

Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on full power in successions of 30 seconds till the chocolate is almost completely molten. It took me about 2 minutes to melt the chocolate. Remove bowl from microwave and place on the kitchen counter.  

To Temper the chocolate

Once the chocolate is on the counter, quickly stir using a spatula or fork till the chocolate melts completely. The chocolate should become shiny and completely liquid. This is the most important step in making the chocolate as this step helps to make perfectly shiny. 

A lot of recipes ask for a thermometer to make the chocolate. However, it is simplest to determine the right temperature by touching the bottom of the bowl. If it is cool to touch, it is the right temperature to make the chocolates. 


To make the Chocolates

Using a spoon fill the chocolate cavities with the melted chocolate. If making plain chocolates, fill the molds till the top. Tap well to remove all air bubbles. 

If making filled chocolates, fill the molds halfway, tap to remove air bubbles. Add the fillings in the centre of the chocolate and pour the liquid chocolate till it the molds are completely filled. Tap well.

Let the chocolate molds stand till the chocolate completely solidifies. In coo weather it takes a couple of hours to solidify the chocolate and in warm places it may take up to 12 hours. Remove chocolates from the mold and enjoy! 

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Super Easy Flatbread Pizza

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Cost Plus World Market and I have been compensated. All opinions are 100% my own. 

A super delicious and easy to make appetizer for any party, these Flatbread Pizzas are a treat for everybody of all ages! 


Can you believe the BIG GAME is almost here? I can still think of the nail biting finish at the game last year, and here we are again; preparing for the big day. 

The most important decision we make as a group is the FOOD! With all the friends being big fans of the game and of delicious finger foods, we have already planned it all out for this year. 


Thinking what is on the menu? Here is a little hint, it is going to be a pizza and soda party! What is a game night without pizza anyway? This year I decided to make the EASIEST pizza I have ever made. This snack comes together in under 15 minutes, needs a few readily available ingredients and is really easy to make. Yes, I bet it is super simple! 


The only ingredients you need to make this is Rosemary and Sea Salt Flatbread and Everything Flatbread for the base, Puttanesca Sauce and Basil Pesto for the sauce and vegetables and cheese to top. This recipe is a perfect candidate for all kinds of parties; as it is easily scalable, super quick to make and 100% customizable! Just one trip to the Mountain View Cost Plus World Market, and I was all set to make the appetizers! Head straight to your closest store from the list here and start prepping for the game! 



Once you have all the ingredients ready, start with these simple things: covert the glass to a game-day special using dry erase markers, decorate the slate cheese board using chalk and get the green turf ready. 

While that is done, make the pizzas using the recipe below. I made them before hand but they tend to become a little soggy in a few hours. Plus, they need to be heated before serving. So instead, I would like to bake them just before serving. It takes only 7-8 minutes to make them. 


The last time I made these I had my nephew at home and he had such a great time helping decorate the pizzas! He handpicked pineapple, onions and peppers to go on his pizzas along with a TON of cheese. That made me realize that this is a perfect activity for a kids party too! 


I made two kinds of pizzas, some with red Puttanesca sauce and the rest with basil pesto. The toppings were different on the pizzas and the guests get to pick and choose which ones they like better! But, they all turned out so good, my friends were not ready to leave out any of these pizzas.


I served the pizzas with Clementine Soda in the Can shaped Glasses from World Market. The glasses are perfect for any drinks, and I love how they look like soda cans that can be filled with any drink of your choice. 

To make the centerpiece for the party, I used the pretty Gold and Marble Pedestal to place the pizzas and the Marble Dipping Bowls to add some more sauces for dipping the flatbreads. The setup is pretty easy to make and comes together in no time! 



Variations

If you like one sauce or want to make them all from one sauce, you can do so. I know a ton of people who define pizza with red sauce and do not prefer pesto on theirs. If you are one of them, go ahead and do that. 

I added the vegetables that most people like. However; broccoli, basil, spinach, mushrooms and tofu can go on these pizzas too! Plus, if you would like the basic Margherita Pizza, just add cheese, sauce and basil. They turn out pretty delicious too! So waste no more time and make this pizza for this Game-Day! May the BEST team win! 



Ingredients

Flatbreads of your choice 2 packets
Marinara/ Puttanesca Sauce 1/2 cup
Basil Pesto 1/2 cup
Vegetables of your choice (I used onions, colored peppers, jalapeño, olives, pineapple and tomatoes) 1 1/2 cup
Grated Cheese 1/2 cup
Olive Oil 2 tbsp



Method

Cut all the vegetables into small pieces. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. 

Lay the flatbreads on a baking tray. I used World Market's Everything and Sea Salt Flatbreads.

On half the flatbreads spread 1 tbsp of Puttanesca Sauce. On the remaining spread a tbsp of Basil Pesto. 

Divide the vegetables on the breads and sprinkle the cheese. Place the flatbread pizzas in the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes. 

Remove from oven and drizzle olive oil on top. Serve on a platter with a side of flatbreads, Puttanesca sauce, Basil Pesto and stuffed olives. 




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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Purple Sweet Potato Bread

A super moist bread loaf that is full of Sweet Potato, this chic Purple loaf is not just delicious, it is made using 100% whole wheat flour! 


Bread baking is my favorite blogging activity. And loaves made with different ingredients is something I enjoy a lot. From all the loaves I have made in the past, this one is my FAVORITE! What more does a girl want except a bread that is VIOLET? 

A few days ago I saw some Purple Sweet Potatoes at the Farmer's Market. I bought myself a couple of pounds. While I used some to make Undhiyu, boiled and roasted a couple; I was left with two BIG ones. The color no longer looked enticing and I was short of ideas of what to do with these. 


I made a couple of potato breads using regular potatoes some time back. I decided to replicate that using these sweet potatoes. And viola, the plan worked PERFECTLY! In a few hours I found myself standing with a knife at the kitchen counter staring at a pale violet colored bread. 

'Would the bread be equally pale inside?' 'Will the bread be soggy inside from the extra moisture from the potatoes?' I had these questions as I sliced the first slice of this pale looking loaf. And I was so glad to see the result. The bread was bright colored inside, perfectly moist because of the potato, super soft in spite of being all wheat, mildly sweet given the potatoes were sweet and made perfect slices for any party sandwiches! 



I have been a fan of violet, purple, pink, coral and all shades around these colors! I was super thrilled to see a bread that had these shades! In parts where there were small bits of potato, the bread was dark violet and evenly light colored in the remaining areas. A real treat to see this loaf and the slices! 

The bread I baked lasted us less than a week. We used this loaf in a couple of sandwiches, dipped it in tea and had a few slices with just some warm butter. The little sweet taste was something I fell in love with. The same taste can be replicated even by regular sweet potato, not just the purple ones. 


Variations


The bread I made was with whole wheat flour. To get the perfect texture I added the wheat gluten. However, you can make the same using all purpose flour. The all purpose flour does not need added gluten. 

As I mentioned above, you can make the bread using regular sweet potato. It will be similar in taste, just not purple in color. If you want a moist but savory bread, add regular potato instead of the sweet one. It helps make the bread nice and moist. 

The same dough can be used to make slider buns, rolls or breads of any other shape too. I would LOVE to try some violet colored burgers next! Till I make them, I am going to make another lot of this loaf soon! 


Ingredients

Whole Wheat Flour 3 cups
Essential Wheat Gluten 3 tbsp
Olive Oil/ Unsalted Butter 3 tbsp
Sweet Potato boiled and mashed 1 cup
Sugar 1 tsp
Dry Active yeast 1 sachet (2 1/4 tsp)
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Water 3/4 cup 

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Method

Pressure cook 1-2 sweet potatoes with just enough water. Or steam in the microwave for 5-6 minutes. Peel and mash completely. Let the mashed potato cool. 

In a bowl heat the water. When just warm (105-110 F), add sugar, 1 tsp salt and the yeast. Let the yeast bloom for 10 minutes. 

In a large bowl, add the wheat flour, essential wheat gluten, 1/2 tsp salt and unsalted butter (room temperature) or olive oil. Mix everything together and add the bloomed yeast and mashed sweet potato.

Using a stand mixer or with your hands knead the dough for 8-10 minutes till it comes together and is soft. Coat the dough with some oil and place it in a bowl. 

Cover the dough and rest in a warm area for an hour till it doubles in size. Line a bread pan with parchment paper or with non stick spray. Set aside. 

After the dough has doubled, punch down and knead for a couple of minutes. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle of 1 inch thickness. I did that on a cookie sheet. 

Roll the dough into a tight loaf, ensuring the layers stick together. Carefully transfer the loaf to the prepared tin and rest covered for an hour.


Preheat oven to 400 F/ 250 C. Place the bread and bake for 20-22 minutes, till it is no longer wobbly and the top is darker in color and crisp. It will become soft once it cools down. 

Remove and cool completely on a cooling rack. Slice the bread and enjoy with a side of butter or use them to make sandwiches.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Puran Poli (Vedmi)

An Indian flatbread made from wheat flour dough and stuffed with sweetened lentil filling, Puran Poli is a must have for the festive season or otherwise!


Makar Sankrant is a around the corner and I am getting ready with all my Chikkis, Undhiya, Ponk vada and of course kites. This Indian festival is celebrated in different parts of the country as Makar Sankranti in Gujarat an Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Lohri in Punjab. While the names and traditions vary, the theme of celebrating is to make something from the fresh produce in the farms. 

Plus, it is winter in the country and a perfect time to have dishes that boost immunity and provide warmth. Sesame, jaggery, rice and sugarcane are the most popular ingredients used to make the dishes. 


In Gujarat, the most popular dish enjoyed with all the colorful kites is Undhiyu. A combination of winter special vegetables, a special spice mix and deep fried gram flour dumplings, this delicacy is enjoyed by everyone. Along with that another dish that is commonly made is Puran Poli. This is a form of sweet bread, wheat dough outer and lentil and jaggery stuffing. The translation of the term is rather straightforward; puran means stuffing and poli means roti. So basically it is a roti stuffed with a sweet jaggery filling. It is also called Vedmi in some parts of Gujarat. 

Though Puran Poli is a little tricky to make, patience and practice will help make it perfect! The recipe has two main elements, making a perfect puran or stuffing and making a pliable dough that is not very dry. Once these two elements are made well, dishing out the polis is pretty easy. 


In the last few years I started making Puran Poli by myself and learnt a few things each time I made mine. From the puran being very thin and not great to roll out the puran polis to it being overcooked and chewy, I have done it all. Using some of my grandma's tricks and learning from my mistakes, I now make them pretty well. 


My learnings

There are few things I learnt over the years and here they are: cook the stuffing till it is thick. To make sure it is done right, place a spoon in the pan of stuffing. If it stands without falling, shut off the gas immediately. 

Do not skip the oil and salt in the dough. The oil makes the dough easy to roll and the salt helps balance the sweetness of the stuffing. They play an important role in making delicious Puran Polis.

Do a taste test of the puran while it cooks. Every jaggery is different and the puran should taste a little extra sweet by itself. That way when stuffed in the rotis, it makes perfect puran polis. If the puran is less sweet, the final product will be bland.

While I made it using tuvar dal, the Maharashtrian way of making it is using Channa Dal. While all the steps remain same, the dal needs to be cooked for 5-6 whistles as it is harder than tuvar dal. These puran polis are generally served with Aamti and taste amazing too! 

I hope you try this at home and do share how they turn out for you. wishing everyone a Happy Sankranti, Pongal and Lohri! 


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Ingredients

For the stuffing

Tuvar (Arhar) Dal 3/4 cup
Jaggery 3/4 cup
Water 2 1/2 cups
Ground Cardamon seeds 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg Powder a pinch
Saffron a few strands

For the outer covering

Whole Wheat Flour 1 cup
Water 1/3 cup
Oil 1 tbsp
Salt a pinch
Ghee/Clarified butter to top


Method

To make the stuffing

In the pressure cooker base add the dal and wash it several times till the water runs clean. Soak the dal in enough water for 30-35 minutes. 

After 35 minutes, drain the water and add 2 1/2 cups water. Pressure cook for 3-4 whistles till the dal is cooked but not mushy. Once the pressure releases, drain the dal using a sieve to remove all the excess water. Mash the dal while removing all the moisture. 

In a pan heat jaggery with the mashed dal. As it cooks, the jaggery melts and becomes syrupy. Mix well and keep cooking on medium flame till the mixture thickens. It takes about 30-35 minutes, ensuring the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Once cooked, remove a tsp of the mixture and try to form a ball. If it stays, the puran is cooked. If it falls apart, cook a little more. Alternatively, try to place a clean spoon in the puran. If it stands in the mixture, the puran is done. Once cooked well, add ground cardamom, ground nutmeg and saffron strands. Mix well and let the mixture cool.



To make the outer covering

Mix together wheat flour, oil, and salt. Using water as required, bind the dough to make a smooth soft ball. Do not use extra water else the dough will be sticky. About 1/3 cup should suffice. Place the dough in a bowl and cover. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

To make the Puran Poli

Once the puran has cooled and the dough has been standing for a while, it is time to start making the puran polis. To do so, divide the dough and the puran into six equal parts. Heat a tava on the side.

Using a dough ball and some dry flour, roll out a 3 inch circle. Place a puran ball in the centre and seal the dough edges. Use little fry flour and roll this out to a disc 5-6 inches in diameter. Repeat for the remaining 5 dough and puran balls. 

Once the tava is hot, place one puran poli on it. Once it starts to puff, turn it over and apply some ghee. Again turn over and apply ghee. Once you see brown spots on both sides, remove from tava and apply ghee on top. 

Serve with Sookhi Moong Dal, Cabbage stir fry, steamed rice, Gujarati kadhi, extra ghee and salad. 


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cheese Jalapeño Stuffed Pretzel Rolls for #BreadBakers

These Cheese Jalapeño Stuffed Pretzel Rolls are SO GOOD; you can have them for breakfast, as an appetizer or a perfect Game-Day snack!


I cannot believe we are only a few weeks away from Super Bowl and it is time for us to start planning recipes for the big game! I am still think of the nail biting finish that the New England Pats had last year and here I am with my first Game-Day recipe for this year. 


Just in time for this post we have this amazing theme for Bread Bakers this month; Pretzels. Thanks to our wonderful hostess for this month,Stacy of Food Lust People Love for this theme. A few months ago I baked my first pretzel as part of another theme and have been in love since. After making different kinds of long, short, twisted and cheesy pretzels, I decided to make a stuffed pretzel recipe this time.




And when it is time for game-day, what's better than cheese and jalapenos? These pretzel buns have everything delicious packed into small parcels of yumminess! Starting with the basic pretzel dough and a stuffing from home-grown and pickled Jalapeños with pepper jack cheese; the combination was perfect for any kind of get together. 


Can you guess what I liked best about these buns? The spicy cheesy filling that oozes out of the buns when they are enjoyed straight from the oven! Any kind of stingy cheese is awesome for these buns. And the signature pretzel crust that comes from the soda bath is yummy too. I did not bake them till very hard as we enjoy a golden brown crust. And yes, the sea salt on top completes the look of these beauties! 




I made a BIG lot of these, yet we finished them off in no time. While the pretzels taste best the day they are made, we don't mind enjoying them the next day too. They get a little soft because of the salt getting absorbed in the dough, yet taste amazing. As the cheese tends to harden on cooling, I like to heat the pretzels for 3-4 minutes at 350 F before serving. That is enough to make the cheese melt and ooze out once again! 


The day I made them we had crazy downpour in the Bay Area! These buns turned out to to the PERFECT evening snack. I had them with some Jasmine Tea by the side. It felt like a great rainy day at home! 




Variations


The soda bath used in the recipe is to get the signature pretzel crust. Make sure the buns are in the bath only for a few seconds, else it will develop a metallic taste. Also, do not add more soda than described below, to avoid the sharp metal taste.


I used enough jalapeño to make them medium spicy. Adjust the quantity based on the spice level you like. Also choose a cheese of your choice, any stringy cheese is perfect! 


If serving at a party, make the buns smaller to make them into bite size appetizers. I made them slightly large and got 15 buns from the amount specified in the recipe. 


Last, modify the stuffings based on what you like! Pizza stuffing, onions or just cheese would work really well!




Ingredients

For the Pretzel

All purpose Flour 3 1/2-4 cup
Water 1 1/2 cup
Instant or Active Dry Yeast 1 sachet (2 1/4 tsp)
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tsp
Unsalted Butter 1 tbsp
Coarse Sea salt to sprinkle

For the Filling

Jalapeño slices 3/4 cup (Fresh or canned)

Garlic 3-4 pods, minced
Cheese of your choice 1 cup ( I used Pepper Jack)
Dried Oregano 1 tsp

For the soda bath

Baking Soda 1/2 cup
Water 10 cups



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Method

In a bowl heat 1 1/2 cup water with salt and sugar. Mix well and add yeast. Let the yeast bloom for 8-10 minutes. 

In the base of a stand mixer or a large bowl mix together 3 cups flour, bloomed yeast and water and unsalted butter. 

Mix together till it comes together as a soft dough. If it is very sticky, add 1/2 cup flour. Use as much dough as required to form a smooth soft dough. Cover and let it rise for 10 -12 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 F/ 320 C. Line a cookie tray with a baking sheet and set aside.



Prepare the filling. To do so mince the jalapeno and shred the cheese. Mix all the ingredients and keep ready. 


Also, prepare the soda bath by boiling the soda and water mixture. Keep a slotted spoon ready.

Divide the dough into 15 equal parts. Using each part roll out a disc. Place a tbsp of the filling and fold the edges to make a smooth ball. Repeat with the remaining dough and keep the breads covered with a moist cloth. 

One by one drop the pretzel rolls into the boiling soda bath and let them be there for 10-15 seconds. Flip and remove from the bath using a slotted spoon in another 10-15 seconds. Leaving them any longer will give them a metallic taste.

Place them on the baking tray and sprinkle coarse sea salt on them. Bake for 15-18 minutes, till the crust is golden brown. 

Remove and serve with olive oil, ranch or a marinara sauce.








    #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

    We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

    BreadBakers


    Check out the Pretzel themed breads that our fellow #BreadBakers have baked this month: